By John M. Sherrard
(Victorville, CA) The Mounties produced another outstanding championship performance, taking fifth (team standings) at the California Community College Athletic Asociation (CCCAA) State Wrestling Championships, which were held at Victor Valley College. Mt. SAC's lone individual champion was sophomore Kevin Kelly, who captured the 141 lb. weight class by narrowly defeating teammate Casper Sherow, 3-2, for the championship.
The Mounties advanced three to the championship final, had a total of seven placers and produced five (Community College) All-Americans (top four placers).
At the 174 lb. weight class championship match, sophomore Reed South placed second, falling to his Cuesta College opponent, 9-6.
After finishing second the last three years, Fresno City College claimed the team championship with 158.5 points. It was the 14th overall title by the Rams. Second was Cerritos with 153.5 points, Sacramento City, third (119.5), Palomar, fourth (114) and Mt. SAC, fifth (113.5).
"I want to compete every year for a state title, that's my goal," sixth-year Mt. SAC coach David Rivera said. "If we win it, great, if we don't I just want a very, very competitive program. Let the chips fall where they fall and sometimes we have better years than others.
"Overall, it was a great season but plenty of room for improvement."
A rule that was added five years ago which allows stronger teams to qualify two wrestlers, in up to two different weight classes, was in full use at the championships.
Four weight class championships had competitors from the same school. With Kelly and Sherow competing in the same class, Rivera had to hold his emotions in check.
"I have emotions for both guys as they have been in the program for two or three years now," Rivera said. "We want to coach but it's hard. That's how the chips fell for them and Kelly came out on top.
"It just happened to be teammate versus teammate."
Kelly and Sherow were training partners most of the year.
"It's crazy being the only wrestler from Mt. SAC as the champion," said Kelly, who has offers from colleges to continue wrestling.
"It's a good feeling to know I did it."
"Our program is super solid and I owe a lot to the coaches."
Kelly and Sherow both had a good idea they would be facing each other in the finals many months ago.
"He's one of my good friends, but for seven minutes, he's an opponent and it all goes out the window," Kelly said. "But after that we're tight and are family."
Sherow, who was third at the So Cal's and dropped from 149 lbs. midway through the season, echoed Kelly's comments.
"If I lost to anyone, it might as well be my training partner," Sherow said. "Ever since the beginning of the season we've been planning it. It's our year, we're going to the state finals together.'"
There wasn't much scoring in the match with Sherow getting an escape for a 1-0 lead in the second period. Kelly evened the match at 1-1 with an escape of his own early in the final period and took a 3-1 lead with a takedown with 33 seconds remaining. Sherow gained the final point on a stalling penalty by Kelly.
In the other Mt. SAC championship match at 174 lbs., South, trailing 9-6 late in the final period came oh so close to pulling out a victory against Cuesta College's Alex Garcia.
"I was trying to get a near fall count but just ran out of time," South said. "I looked up at the clock and there was only one second left."
South also lost to Garcia in the So Cal's last week.
Perhaps the biggest upset in the state championships was the upset of Mt. SAC's No. 1 ranked Dominguez in the second round on day one, losing a close 4-3 decision.
However, the freshman from Northview High School, completely turned his fortunes around and swept his way to a third-place finish pinning three of his four opponents.
"I just came up short but just to come back says a lot about someone once they lose," Dominguez said. "I still have next year and I have high expectations."
Rivera praised his young wrestler for his comeback to finish third and achieve All-American status with that win.
"He had a mentality change," Rivera said. "He has strong character and came back and pinned people all the way through and we're proud of that.
"He became a top-four wrestler and an All-American and hopefully he trains hard and gets back here and wins a state title because he deserves it."
In the 125 lb. weight class Diaz, who lost his opening-round match, won his next two by decision, the first over teammate John Whisner, and helped his team for points for a six-place finish.
In the 133 lb. class, Mt. SAC freshman Julian Melecio won his opening-round match on Friday with a pin but lost in the quarterfinals. In a consolation match Melecio won by a major decision (14-4), losing the next match by a major decision and finished the next match in eighth.
Hope, after his first-day decision, advanced to the semifinals with a pin at 2:19 of the second period, but fell into the consolation bracket with a loss.
With a chance to advance to the third-place match Hope lost, but came back with a fifth-place win after his opponent forfeited.
In the 184 lb class Yi advanced to the semifinals, the fifth Mountie wrestler to accomplish the feat, but lost and eventually advanced to the third-place match with a close, 10-9, decision.
Yi was pinned but still became the fifth Mt. SAC wrestler to gain All-American status.
Final Results of the Mt. SAC wrestlers in the CCCAA State Championships:
125 lbs. – Elijah Diaz, 6th Place
133 lbs. – Julian Melecio, 8th Place
141 lbs. – Kevin Kelly, CHAMPION (All-American)
141 lbs. – Casper Sherow, Runner-Up (All-American)
149 lbs. – Joseph Dominguez, 3rd Place (All-American)
165 lbs. – Kevin Hope, 5th Place
174 lbs. – Reed South, Runner-Up (All-American)
184 lbs. – Barnabas Yi, 4th Place (All-American)
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For additional information, please contact the Mt. SAC Sports Information Office at 909.274.4630.